COVINGTON — Eastside has to hope that lighting strikes twice as they go up against AP Class AAAA No. 3 ranked Monroe Area on the road Friday.
Last year, the Hurricanes (9-0 overall, 6-0 Region 8-AAAA) were ranked fourth by AP and looking to go undefeated as they were heading into their final game at Homer Sharp Stadium. But when the final horn sounded they were on the losing end of a 35-0 score.
“That’s all we’ve talked about all week. We’re going to approach this game like we did last year and we’re going to go at it as hard as we can and see what happens,” Eagles head coach Rick Hurst said. “Nobody gave us a chance last year including (media) so we’re going to go out there knowing that we don’t have anyone pulling for us or behind us except what’s in this office and what’s on this team. I know our kids are going to play hard.
“I don’t think that gives us an advantage, it just gives our kids the opportunity to go out there and play loose. Of course, they have everything wrapped up. They don’t have to prove anything except finish a perfect season which we ruined last year. I’m sure they have revenge on their mind but that’s okay, we would too.”
For the Eagles to pull off the upset again, they are going to have to find a way to slow down an offense that’s averaging 51 points a game including a 75-0 win over Walnut Grove and a 47-0 win over Stephens County. The Eagles lost to Stephens County last week 30-14.
For the Eagles to have a chance they are going to have to stop their running game consisting mainly of seniors Kwan Brooks and Stanton Truitt. The two running combined for 2,400 yards rushing. Brooks is their main running back carrying the ball 131 times for 1,267 yards. Besides being a running threat, Truitt is also Monroe Area’s quarterback. He has a completion rate of almost 60 percent for an average of 20 yards per pass. He’s thrown for 12 touchdown while getting intercepted twice on 49 attempts.
“They have a good football team. Their 4x100 track team is their backfield,” Hurst said. “We have to look at slowing things down a little bit and try to limit their possessions which limits ours. But it slows that game down so hopefully we can put them in a position to keep it close and eventually we’ll come out on top.”
Offensively, Eastside is going to have to move the ball and put points on the board against a defense that has been allowing an average of 11 points a game. The Hurricanes have three shutouts this season with Lumpkin County only scoring a field goal. The most points given by the Monroe Area defense was 28 points by Lanier with Loganville and Chestatee scoring 21.
“We’ve struggled all year to stay in short yardage situations on second and third downs and we can’t do that against these guys. We have to chew the clock and get positive yards on first down to give us a chance to mix up the run and pass where it’s not a given as to what we’re going to do,” Hurst said. “That’s been difficult for us consistently and it’s going to be tough against these guys.”
Unfortunately, the Eagles are going to be without the services of running back/defensive back Jamal Hardge and wide receiver/defensive back Evan House making the task harder. However, don’t expect Hurst to allow his team to use that an excuse for not winning.
“We’re banged up. The guys we have behind them, a lot of them are freshman and that’s not good when you’re going up against a 9-0 football team that’s ranked fourth in the state. But that’s where we are,” Hurst said. “We have to play the game. We can’t make excuses about injuries, we don’t, so we’re not going to start now.”
Win or lose, Hurst has done something no other Newton County school has been able to accomplish and that’s to have a non-losing record that’s lasted for eight years so far. The last time the Eagles had a losing record was Hurst’s first year when they went 0-10 in 2005. Since then they have been no lower than .500. The other closest consecutive non-losing season streaks were done by Newton coaches. The first was from 1963-1966 under Milton McLaney. The other time was under Sam Marra from 1985 season until the 1988 season.